It’s National Poetry Day in New Zealand today, and this is my contribution: a poem about my eccentric plan to prepare for an imminent old age, hoping to make it as healthy and happy as possible.
I gave myself one year
to learn and rehearse the terrible role
of being old.
I was confused but I was committed.
Month by month I tackled
housing and eating and exercise
finance and hobbies and friends and voice
happiness and brain and mind
identity, and lastly, nervously
the existential bit
(spoiler: the one I failed):
coming to terms with death.
That was the plan, you can call it obsessive
call it silly or selfish, neurotic, excessive
but hey, it was certainly systematic.
A spreadsheet gives you a sense of control
and I hoped to still be myself
and the boss of myself when old
by getting the gist, keeping up with the play
making decisions and having a go—
polishing skills that might otherwise
I gave every layer a nudge and a tweak
with practical acts and tiny habits
that somehow echoed and rippled and rolled
into a single category of life.
Or perhaps the ripple effect began
when I found my freaky streak
of hatred for the unyoung—
I don’t know. But once begun
love stepped in
and good things happened easily
without a shove.
This was my solitary boot camp
to prepare for the bonus years
that I never expected or desired.
Not a battle not a war
not a fluffy blue-sky dream
not a bullying regime
not a set of affirmations
but a kind of covenant
and a bunch of baby steps.
This was my year of being old.